Teamwork Pays Off 1

Teamwork drives the performance of an organization and its staff. What is the difference between a group and a team, and what is the most important skill team members should have? The answer is: we should learn to perform in the context of a team.

There have been so many things going on at the CEF in the last couple of months. Our new director Jana Repanšek took the position, the CEF Learning Program 2018 was published, and different learning initiatives happened at the CEF premises and online. Being part of all this, I cannot but stop for a moment and think: who has been involved in it? Are we a team or a group of individuals who have delivered great results?

Following the question above, I did a bit of research and came to some conclusions. But before I continue to present them, let me explain why I think this question is of significant importance.

Two online courses (one as part of the blended learning initiative), webinars, infographics, Line Ministries Portal, CEF Online Learning Campus developments – these were the main tasks I have been working on in the last few months. The main point here, however, is not the long list of activities but the fact that I was not alone in this. There were my colleagues as well: Aleksander, Tara, Kaja, Polona, Gregor and others. We worked together and accomplished a great deal. Furthermore, during this process we worked in different roles and collaborated in various ways. I also noticed that we perceived the meaning of collaborative work differently.

Observing all the dynamics happening, I asked myself: do we want to achieve common objectives as a group or as a team? What is the main difference, and which are the most important skills a team member should have in order to work and function well in a team? What can we as a knowledge hub in public financial management, tax policy and administration, central banking, and leadership for managing reforms say on this topic?

Following, with some theoretical answers where I encourage you to reflect on your own situation and organization, I list a few findings. I would like to highlight that there exist different views on teams and groups. Pros and cons can be found for both, but I have decided to look at it from an interpersonal perspective, trust and goal orientation.

1. “A team is like a car which consists of multiple parts joined together to accomplish a particular task.” Persons are associated together in work or activity, and their collective performance determines results. Synergy arises. The common purpose binds and connects. Members are aware that everyone contributes to the end result. On the other hand, “A group is group of people waiting at a bus stop.” Here, individuals are assembled together or have some unifying relationship, and are responsible for their own contributions. Group approach is more individualistic. Each individual is focused on his/her own task and little is known or understood about the tasks of the other group members.

2. In a team, the leader is more a facilitator and members decide on assignments together. He/she is respected via active participation. Team members have sense of ownership and are committed to value common goals. They contribute to the organization’s success by applying their talents, knowledge and creativity to team objectives. In a group, the leader dominates and controls the group, and assigns work to the members. He/she tends to lead behind the desk. Group members focus on themselves and are told what to do rather than being asked what the best approach would be.

3. Trust is important in a team. Members are encouraged to openly express ideas, opinions, disagreements and feelings. They see conflicts as a normal aspect of human interaction, and as an opportunity for new ideas and creativity. They work together to solve conflicts quickly and constructively. Group members often distrust the motives of colleagues. They do not understand the role of other members. They find themselves in conflict situations they do not know how to solve or give all the responsibility to others. Members are extra cautious about what they say.

Source: Hitesh Baid, Introduction to Teams, Team vs Group

Healthy teamwork is much connected to the skills each member has. Verbal and non-verbal communication among members is one of the most important skills. If they use direct, offensive words, they challenge conflicts to rise. Therefore, a good team member is able to clearly communicate, listen to the ideas and concerns of other colleagues, mediate problems, and is reliable and respectful.

Each one of us is an expert in something, but individuals alone cannot answer or solve all the issues and find solutions for their organization. Teamwork conditions the quality of performance – for organization itself and also its staff. We need to support and trust each other, and take responsibility for our own obligations and actions. Last but not least, we should appreciate one another and celebrate the results of teamwork.

Do we really work in teams, or do we only refer to them when we really mean just groups?


• March Buschman, 7 differences between a group and a team
• Hitesh Baid, Introduction to Teams, Team vs Group
• Rob Wengrzyn, The Difference Between Groups and Teams: Definition & Contrasts
• Alison Doyle, List of Teamwork Skills


About Ajda Turk

Ajda's passion is to explore how people learn, and why they think and act the way they do. She sees the whole learning process as a metaphor of cooking. For a tasty meal you need to get the ingredients and also the right kitchen accessories. But for the best results the attitude of the cook is vital. She works on the CEF online learning initiatives, and is highly motivated to explore and use online learning tools, which can help learners get the best learning experience with a transformative value.

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